I’m Wes. In my mind, nothing beats a good story. Tell me a tale of love, loss, redemption, belonging — I’ll eat it up faster than one of my famous homemade cheesecakes. I’m here to find a safe space to navigate my way through the grander story of being redeemed by Jesus. The catch is, I love men. Like, a lot. And I’m trying to learn how to love them better — the way that He would. Wanna jump into the story with me for a bit, brothers? The dozen antique clocks in my apartment say we have plenty of time.

Going into this retreat, your boy was stressed. Stressed just from day-to-day existing. Looking back and evaluating my spiritual condition at the time, I could not slow down long enough to have one simple conversation with God. Long enough for my brain and my heart to catch up to each other.

I was going to my local high school every day to yell math at 150 apathetic teenagers, just to keep the lights on. I was trying to prove myself in my new leadership position as New Music Minister at my church, which is over an hour’s drive away. I was preparing devotional talks and singing services for my Tuesday small group. I was trying to cook my own dinners most nights to save money and not lose control of my weight.

I was trying to find energy to put toward people and things that I love and just could not muster it.

“I need to move to Europe,” I said. “I can’t move/grow/produce/provide fast enough to belong in this country. I can’t move/grow/study/evangelize fast enough to be a decent Christian. Western society and Western Christianity just aren’t vibing with me. I can’t keep up with our Discord fast enough to be a good YOBBER.

“So, I’m a bad capitalist, a bad Christian, and a bad YOBBER.”

My heart was cold. Bitter. I was trying to find something to cure this bitterness that did not cost me money I didn’t have, and hey, putting your dick in your hand is always free.

My heart wasn’t behind that teacher’s desk. How could it be when my students’ hearts didn’t show up? Nor was my heart with my small group — I never did life with them outside of Tuesday nights. Nor was my heart rendering the timeless truths embedded in the words to these new hymns and spiritual songs. I just thought the harmonic language and rhythms were pretty to listen to.

Deep down, I was a robot. Plain and simple. A monkey trained to do the bidding of his earthly superiors. I was exhausted. Drained. And stuck.

I hadn’t talked to God in weeks. The only thing I was able to stutter out to God before flying to this year’s YOBBERS retreat was: “God, I don’t deserve your intervention, but if there’s something you need to tell me or show me this weekend, then do so.”

So, imagine my surprise that my favorite moment at the retreat — for this extrovert, mind you — was having some quiet, alone time with God on Saturday morning. Journaling and praying.

As the tears flowed freely from the shame of denying myself this intimate fellowship with my Father for far too long, I realized in that all-too-short 45 minutes what He needed to tell me:

“Son, slow down . . . and let Me be your strength . . . before it’s too late.”

The Chief Sparrow posed the reflection question, “Why are you here this weekend?” and I wrote in my journal: To reconnect with God and listen for His voice again. To hear the voices of brothers who actually care for my soul.

I had let the voices and influence of so many flood my brain on a constant basis, yet none of these entities claimed my soul as belonging to them. Therein lied the issue.

Brothers, when I say that God spoke to me through all of you, I mean it. As I examined my “inner strength meter,” I realized that with the Lord’s strength, I really have no excuse. Because He chooses to use broken people just like me in His kingdom.

Before being sorted into our tribes (small groups) for the weekend, I had a conversation with an other brother about which tribe I wanted/needed to be in this year. I told him I felt discipleship was where I was most lacking amongst YOB’s seven values. As you can tell from my previous rant, I was in a season where I really didn’t know how to follow Jesus or trust His leadership in my life.

Lo and behold, I was later sorted into the Discipleship tribe with some of the most genuine men I’ve ever met.

Six other brothers received me and my brokenness in the most gracious way. During our tribe discussions I opened up about a relationship with a male friend that was giving me anxiety, simply because we are sexually, emotionally, and intellectually attracted to each other — and we are having a difficult time determining boundaries in the relationship. I expressed to my tribe that part of my brain is screaming to cut off the relationship completely out of self-preservation — for our purity, basically.

And these godly men didn’t run for the hills. I didn’t get banished from the group or labeled as “Side A” (gasp). Instead, they called out the fear and shame that I had obviously wrapped around this relationship. And when they brought this up, I knew immediately what had happened. I had let some of my personality’s worst traits get the best of me yet again.

These men encouraged me that relationships such as this one don’t often come around, and need to be preserved and fought for. That my friend and I should lean into the messiness together instead of running from it.

To all six of you beautiful men, I hope you know you saved a part of my soul that night. I didn’t realize how alone I felt in this matter, and how Satan had been using that fear to keep me in the dark. And now I feel empowered to continue these vulnerable conversations with my friend and with others who may be in the same boat. To invite Jesus into the messiness and into the conversation.

I’ve been entrusted with two responsibilities at these last few YOBBERS retreats: to pick an a cappella song for the musicians of our community to sing for the group, and to lead us all in an a cappella rendition of the Doxology to close the weekend. Since our retreat theme this year was “Five Years of Stories and Strength,” I knew finding the right song was critical.

For some reason, the more I thought about it, I could not uncouple the word “strength” with “confidence.” And then I remembered an incredible song by Sanctus Real that invoked examples of so many amazing men of faith and strength in the Old Testament. So, all my a cappella boiz sang that night:

Give me faith like Daniel in the lion’s den

Give me hope like Moses in the wilderness

Give me a heart like David

Lord, be my defense

So I can face my giants with confidence

Brothers, I heard the voice of Jesus singing over me through all of you that weekend. And that’s a gift that will never be topped. I will face my giants with confidence.

Have you struggled to slow down and simply enjoy the presence of God, and how do you rediscover that rhythm with Him? Have you allowed fear and shame to hinder the growth of a messy relationship? How can you invite Jesus into the messiness, together?

About the Author

  • Thank you, Wes, for this vulnerable, insightful, beautifully honest reflection on your experience before and during the YOB retreat. It has done my heart good to listen, reflect, and receive it.

    I very much relate to great difficulty in slowing down and listening to God, receiving his life in me to sustain me. I can have such a clear and beautiful moments with him, and yet slip out of the rhythm so easily. What helps me get back in rhythm is to literally plant my butt on the sofa in our living room in the early morning hours while everyone is still asleep, turn my head and look at Jesus, seeing him right there with me, and my heart softens and opens to him once again. But I am really good at finding reasons not to get to the sofa in the early morning, and sometimes it takes everything I have just to obey and sit down. He is faithful to show up every time. He’s so gracious like that.

    As for the messy relationship, right now, that feels like it’s with my wife. The mess has to do with challenges around initiation, sexuality, and a sense of imbalance, where it feels like it’s mostly up to me to keep us connected in these ways. Lately, I’ve just been disengaging and keeping a polite emotional distance because it feels like too much work. I honestly don’t know how to move forward without slipping into my old, unhealthy role of being a pleaser so as not to rock the relational boat. But what I need to have is loving but honest conversation with her about how I’m feeling.

    Thank you for the opportunity to share and reflect on this. I’m grateful for you and how God met you through the retreat in the community!

  • Thanks for entering into the messiness, Wes – firstly for your own relationship with Jesus, but secondly for our own benefit as fellow community members. Inspired by your integrity in this matter. You’ve been such a musical and relational gift to our community these last few years at retreats and otherwise. Already eager to see what song you cook up for next year’s gathering! I loved how seriously you took finding an appropriate song that matched our theme. 🙂

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